by Del Harvey
This indie production features some of the best stars from your favorite low-budget films in a story that would have benefited from one more rewrite. New from MTI Home Video.
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Border Blues has several plots going on at once, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Except the cover is almost entirely misleading, because the story is not truly about Eric Roberts’ character, Larry, but really about this retired Russian cop who has immigrated to the US (played by the film’s writer/director Rodion Nahapetov). Seems that he has come to live in LA and can’t get a job in law enforcement because he’s a foreigner. That makes sense; he’d have to go back to school and go through the police academy, like anyone else. But he talks his way into being friends with a couple of diehard LA detectives. Anyone who knows a police will tell you how hard it is to crack their shell, let alone become tight friends with these guys in five or ten minutes, but somehow our “hero” accomplishes this. Just ‘s buddying up with the boys in blue, a serial bomber is striking at all the pharmaceutical companies in LA. Police commander March (Gary Busey) leads the investigation against the bomber, whom we are lead to believe to be some guy named Larry (Eric Roberts).
Segue to our Russian ex-cop being sent to Tijuana to pick up some “tiles” from a smuggler. Most of us would automatically think he’s being sent to mule back some drugs for his boss; but no, his restaurant-owner boss had such a big heart he sent his new dishwasher down to Mexico to hook up with a smuggler of illegal aliens, also know as a “coyote,” ostensibly to pick up a couple of fake passports so the Russian can ship his son and his pregnant daughter-in-law into the US so they can all be united.
Suddenly he’s meeting with Larry (Roberts) who turns out to be the coyote, and who is in the middle of smuggling another Russian, Rita (Ekaterina Rednikova) and her daughter, across the border into the US. This guy showing up out of the blue freaks Roberts out, then his attempt to smuggle Rita fails when the border patrol shows up, and he has to return to his house south of the border, where the Russian ex-cop awaits. To make things even more muddled and confused, a pair of Mexican cops, led by the venerable Erik Estrada, are on to Larry’s little business and in hot pursuit of him back to his shack. Why? The writers must have thought we wouldn’t ask such questions, because all we get is a chase through the desert.
What makes all of this worse is that Roberts’ character is constantly putting together bombs in a barn behind his house, then putting them into envelopes and addressing them. We suppose he’s the bomber, but in the end Busey appears and reveals that the bomber was really some other whack-job with a beef against one of the companies for firing him.
The whole thing lacks any real sense of tension or plausibility, which is truly sad, considering the cast. To be fair, each actor does a fine job of holding their own, with the exception of the two Russian leads, who seem a bit over their heads in comparison to the recognizable names; or perhaps it’s that these name stars have such good chops that they can crank out these types of films in their sleep.
Either way, unless you are a devout fan of Eric Roberts or Gary Busey, there isn’t much to recommend Border Blues. If it’s any indication, I could not find the film listed in either star’s filmography on IMDB. I’ll take that as confirmation.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and teaches screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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